John Coleman certainly has some cool calm heads among his current squad. Whether it’s the FA¿Cup final or an amateur decider, volunteering for a penalty takes some nerve.
The Reds have a long history of spot-kick takers with the Stanley chief struggling to find a solid one, a la Graham Alexander at Burnley in recent years.
The Reds boss even went through three last season in Jimmy Ryan, Phil Edwards and ending with Michael Symes in his search for the perfect penalty taker.
But Coleman should have no shortage of volunteers after the current Stanley crew saw off League One Tranmere with aplomb in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy shoot-out on Tuesday.
The game ended all-square after 90 minutes, and it was straight to the shootout and, after limited excitement in the early stages of the competition, the heat was certainly on for this first-round ending.
With Coleman giving fringe players a chance to stake a claim for a starting berth – although still had to field a number of regulars to keep within the cup rules – all stepped up to the plate.
Stanley midfielder Luke Joyce was man enough to take the first spot kick and he slotted it home, even though keeper Joe Collister guessed the right way.
And then Reds stopper Alex Cisak had no chance with Ryan Fraughan’s thunderbolt for 1-1.
Andy Parkinson was under enormous pressure at his home town club and had the Rovers fans behind the goal trying to put him off but he stayed firm to send Collister the wrong way.
Step forward Rovers striker Enoch Showunmi, whose goal 11 minutes from time had taken the tie to sudden death. It was him who proved to be the difference as his spot kick was so high it was almost at the top of the stands and, in truth, he didn’t look the most confident with his short run-up. Reds keeper Cisak admitted there were a few mind games to put the shooter off – and it worked.
So then it was up to Stanley’s men to hold their nerve.
The next pressure fell on young Peter Murphy’s shoulders to keep the Reds ahead – and he didn’t waste his big moment, blasting it into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Tranmere continued to match the Reds but regular penalty taker Edwards sent Collister the wrong way for 4-2 and then it went to Jimmy Ryan needing to score to win the tie.
The home fans were trying to put him off and, though Collister guessed the right way, his outstretched finger-tips just couldn’t get there and the Reds kept alive their hopes of a JP Trophy adventure, similar to last season but with aims to go further than the semi-final stage.
Coleman was proud of his spot kick heroes who stayed composed in what are always tricky circumstances. It might not have been the Bournemouth FA¿Cup replay of a few years ago but there was still nerve-jangling and excitement at the sudden conclusion to the game.
Coleman admitted: "I didn’t have to search for volunteers – there were enough lads who were desperate to take one of the penalties.
"Luke did well and then there was a lot of pressure on Andy Parkinson back at his home club and the Tranmere fans behind the goal let him know so it was nice to see that one go in.
"Peter Murphy’s was a great penalty. Me and Jimmy (Bell) were talking on the sidelines saying I wouldn’t like to be him if he missed as his dad can go off on one, especially if Peter makes a mistake. So I think he would have had to sleep in the garden if he had missed!
"But they have all done well and there should be no shortage of confidence on penalties now. Mind you that’s if we ever get one again in a game!"
It was the fourth time these teams have met in the cups over the years, Tranmere winning an FA¿Cup replay and a previous JP Trophy clash.
Then, Stanley were massive underdogs but, on Tuesday night, just 10 league places separated the two sides.
Stanley made six changes and brought off Johnny Bateson after just 13 minutes so there were seven not-so-regular faces on show.
They did take time to gel and so it was Stanley’s stopper Alex Cisak who was by far the busier keeper, his best save one from Adam McGurk which he turned around the post before the interval.
After the break, he denied Arnaud Mendy with his foot and then stretched to tip a Showunmi effort over the bar.
However, a long ball forward by defender Andrew Owens, making his full Reds debut, caught keeper Collister in two minds and Ray Putterill nipped in and took his time to line up a shot past the Rovers defenders on the line – his second goal for the Reds after an 18-month injury lay-off.
Former Tranmere favourite Parkinson did have a similar chance a minute later but this time Collister got his hand to what wasn’t the strongest of shots.
It looked like Putterill would be the hero but then Owens slipped at the back and Showunmi pounced to fire the ball between Cisak’s legs which led to the penalty showdown, concluding with the Reds players running to mob Ryan when his winner flew in.
Coleman added: "It could have gone either way with penalties but thankfully it went our way.
"We were poor in the first half, we didn’t pass like we can and they dominated the game.
"But we got better in the second half and, just when I thought we had seen it out, there was a mistake for the goal. But, all credit to our lads, they kept going right until the end.
"All the lads, including Andrew Owens and Tom Smyth at the back, did well and it shows we do have a healthy squad here."